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Only 48 per cent of Laotians are connected to the electrical grid. Access to electricity is limited due to lack of infrastructure and high costs so most rural communities rely on environmentally unfriendly energy sources, such as firewood and kerosene.

Solar-powered systems are a logical alternative but start-up costs are high.

To get around this, local company Sunlabob Rural Energy is renting solar-based systems to villagers.

Solar-powered lanterns are available to rent at a competitive price and users can recharge the lamps for a small fee at a central facility in the village.

Alternatively, a whole village can rent the equipment for generating solar electricity from the company and sub-lease power to individual houses.

And larger villages can use a combination of solar, hydro and generator power to create a grid with enough energy to power health clinics, rice mills and water pumps.

The programme is proving highly successful because the community itself is in charge, ensuring sustainability.

Around 1,800 village systems and 500 solar lanterns have been rented to families in 73 villages in Laos. Sunlabob is now seeking to extend the project into Cambodia and Indonesia and other regions.

Link to full article in IRIN

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